Acceleration of Speed

These always remind me of my childhood.

Leveling speed.

This one facet of any game is probably something mulled over and over as the design process goes on. With good reason, it’s an integral facet of any MMO. How fast do you want players to move through each area? How quickly do you want people to reach the end? If you make it too fast, will it loose consequence? If it’s too slow, will players become frustrated, especially in today’s market of instant gratification? Is the focus of your game supposed to be on the journey, or the destination, and how do you create the curve appropriately?

WAR is an interesting beast in regards to how it approached level-progression. On the one hand, there is the 1-40 career levels you have to progress through. I remember before release, Jeff Hickman saying in an interview that it was a very time-friendly 10-days gameplay to reach cap. Yes, you read that correctly, 10 days of play time to reach level 40. The rampage system sped this up insanely well for highly coordinated individuals. However, for most of us, and eerily-so for me, he was pretty darn accurate. My very first character, my DoK hit 40 after 10 days, and some hours. My second character (my Shadow Warrior) did it in about 8. My Knight: in about 5. My Blackguard: in about 2 or 3. On the other hand, there are the 80 renown ranks, the amount of time needed for this achievement is considerable, I’ve only done it once so far, and I’m getting close on my second. 

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Incentivizing vs Limiting

As I see things, when designing games, systems, or anything that involves human interaction and choice, you are always trying to get certain outcomes or results. With games and MMOs in particular, we usually like to have options on how to go about doing various tasks we want to do, and we want to be successful at it. Lately, it seems I’ve been having a lot of conversations about how to get players to act as desired after. In WAR, this is healers who DPS, or Tanks who DPS, or players who solo queue for scenarios, or ignore other players who need help. But this activity happens in all games, it was the Dirge/Troub in EQ2 who wanted to do more dps and neglect their debuffs. In WoW it (perceived) to be Shamans and Paladins who wanted to DPS instead of heal. Sometimes the games change to accommodate these other desired playstyles, making all paths viable, other times, games cut divergent players off by hard-limiting possibilities. Of the two choices, I always prefer the former.

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Minimum Requirements

Half-Life 2 for the curious.

I had a spark of memory on a topic I’ve been wanting to talk about for a long time. It boils down to a fairly simple topic, but stems from a far more diverse and complicated issue. It was recently personified in an interesting forum post. The writer was addressing a group of people who did something he did not understand, and has resulted in a frustrated change in play. Pretty common situation. Expectations and outside responses not matching up leads to friction. However it’s the particulars of this situation that I find of specific interest as a look at player perceptions.

In this particular event, the problem arose from a negative reaction of the general populace upon requiring the use of Ventrilo and a direct request for an invite to join his warband. The outcry was that these restrictions were elitist and segmenting the population by placing ludicrous demands upon the other player. For those not in the know, by no means are these a hurdle to overcome. The programs are free and quick to download, and the interface is notoriously easy. Voice communication in genre is becoming considered by many to be a standard, due to the limitations of traditional typed-chat. How could a player not be able to recognize the necessity of fast passed, easy communication for a situation that was dynamic and hectic?

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Tools for the Job

First, be prepared for some hefty linkage here, while I set the stage throughout the post to give reference to what I’m talking about.

I was reading a post at Syncaine’s where he was talking about SW:TOR, and the results that “calling” it an MMO will have. Right now, it’s too early for me to really comment on the validity of his statements. I don’t know how the gameplay will be, or how closely it will adhere to typical MMO conventions. The short and long of it(or TLDR version for the internet lingo), as Syncaine puts it, is that the game is going to be more akin to an online, co-op single player RPG and that the MMO crowd will not receive that well. If the game is released like that, and lacking in an end-game method of progression, there very well may be problems. However, we don’t know for sure that’s the case.

That said, I want to gloss over that post and get to the heart of what I’m talking about here. Sid 6.7, of Serial Ganker, made a comment, or an observational statement to be more accurate, about how the focus of SW:TOR (story) could be used to further its primary goal. He then went on to make a post of his own about it, explaining in a bit more detail what he thinks should be available to developers of the game post lauch. His statement, and post, struck me as particularly interesting based on what I know of the game engine being used.

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Content, who has it?

I’m going to edge in on a Friday blog fight to artificially inflate my traffic.

The long and short of this whole ordeal, is that Tobold doesn’t seem to count anything as content unless developers put it there, crafted by hand. Syncaine and evizaer seem to disagree. Syncaine uses the argument that Tobold said he would (for the most part), while eivzaer systematicaly counters the base assumptions and premise to refute Tobold’s claims.

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Set This Up

Yesterday for work, I had to drive for just over 300 miles. It sucked, but it did give me a lot of time for thinking, and other than my normal listening to talk radio, and physically feeling my blood pressure rise at the ridiculous crap that goes on in government, I had time to think about my other favorite hobby: gaming. I was thinking about my DoK and my SW and the gear they are currently in, what gear progression I was working towards on them, and the cost/benefit of those items.

Particularly I started thinking about sets, and set bonuses. I know it’s hard for some of the WoW generation to remember, but there was a time before set bonuses. WoW was the first “traditional” MMO to make use of them, it really was a ported copy of a concept from Diablo II. Hell, the entirety of WoW was little more than an elongated, more complex version of Diablo II (but that’s a different topic all-together). I remember when I first started playing EQ2, I hauled my CPU over to my friend’s place with a buddy, and the three of us jumped into the game together. We were shocked when we got gear with stat bonuses on them from early levels! Set bonuses were never even in that game till much, much later (Echoes of Faydwer I believe).

So, what has led to this seemingly new staple of modern MMOs? Why are set bonuses used?

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Responsibilities of the Player

chore1With all the frustration that I’ve been feeling over WAR of late, I’ve been browsing the forums a lot more than usual. I’ve always been a crazy forum addict, and every game I’ve ever played, I’ve at least had a mild interaction with the community via the forums. WAR is the first game that ever got me off my ass and into writing, and plunged me even more-so into the community that was there. To me, it’s always amazed me when people report that less than 10% of the games population uses the forums regularly. They have always been a wealthof information, a place to vent, a community to share with, and a great ground for initiating gameplay. All of the benefits of the forums help ensure my own willingness to stick around for the long haul.

While burning through all the posts on WHA and the officials, I got to thinking about what the role of the player is when seen in regards to the development of the game. There are tools in the game to do bug reports, and to report cheaters/hackers/botters/etc… Official forums are a good place to set up communication between players and those who have a line to the ears that need to hear what the players are saying. So we have a few different tools at our disposal to TRY and get information to the people that play the games we love. However, has anyone stopped to ask why? Why should we do all this? When did it become our responsibility to do work to enjoy a game?

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